Apprenticeships still offering great opportunities despite pandemic

Four North Wales apprentices who have been working on Wynne Construction projects have urged everyone eligible – not just school leavers – to consider training for a new career as a viable option.

While many will opt for an apprenticeship immediately after education, the system offers opportunity for a much wider range of people, including those who may have been put on furlough during lockdown.

Wynne Construction launched its foundation, Wynne Futures, last year to formally tie together its activities to bring more people into the construction industry. This includes opportunities within the contractor as well as within its supply chain. Despite colleges being closed, learning is still continuing with many apprentices on-site full time.

Joshua Lyth, 26, Adam Boggs, 21, and Ryan Williams, 17, have all been working for companies subcontracting to Wynne Construction  on the new Ysgol y Faenol extension and refurbishment in Bangor, while Callum Cunningham, 18, is an apprentice joiner with  Wynne Construction  and working on the housing association Adra’s apartment scheme in Bangor.

Lyth, who works for Deeside-based mechanical, electrical and security firm MA Cooper Projects, is in the first year of his apprenticeship with Coleg Cambria in Deeside. He spent three years at a Vauxhall supplier in Ellesmere Port, before taking a job in plumbing supplies, where he got to know a number of MA Cooper Projects employees.

He decided to take up an apprenticeship after being put on furlough during the first lockdown in 2020. Lyth said: “I thought it was a good time for a change in career, with the age I’m at now I was thinking I best get the ball rolling, and do something I’m more interested in and passionate about. Provided you do well with your employer, you’re almost guaranteed a role. They’ve got to know you, spent the money on the course and put all that effort in, so it’s in their best interests to keep you on.”

Cunningham, from Abergele, is studying for his level 3 and final year of hisapprenticeship with Wynne through Coleg Llandrillo. He said: “At the start I didn’t have a lot of expectations. You’re in school mode and think everything is going to get done for you, but you figure it out after a few weeks, and colleagues also help. I just got on with it, and if you enjoy what you do, you won’t want to do anything else. When I finish the course, I want to stay with Wynne Construction as they are a big firm with exciting projects.”

Adam Boggs and Ryan Williams both from Bethesda and on the second year of their joinery apprenticeships, are employed by Ogwen Joinery on Wynne Construction’s Ysgol y Faenol project.

Boggs, 21, said: “I tried a few things but I’ve really found my niche now. I went to catering college and was in the industry for about two years, and then did another course which I didn’t really enjoy, but I got the offer from the owner of Ogwen Joinery who asked me if I wanted to work for them. This is the second Wynne project after being on site at the Welsh Mountain Zoo in Colwyn Bay. We’ve just been lucky to win work with  them and they are good projects. The zoo was an interesting job; it’s been very different to working in catering.”

The opportunity was more serendipitous for Williams, who was offered an apprenticeship while still at school. Williams said: “Back in 2018 I was helping out with some voluntary joinery at the rugby club in Bethesda. The boss of Ogwen Joinery was there, saw the work I was doing and asked if I’d be interested in an apprenticeship when I left school. The course has been good so far and I’ve really enjoyed being out on site at places like the Welsh Mountain Zoo.”

Managing director of Wynne Construction, Chris Wynne, said: “I’m very pleased to see we’ve been able to help these four into apprenticeships. Giving young people the confidence to get into construction is core to Wynne Futures, and we collaborate with many institutions to offer a taste of work on-site to those who think it might be for them. Even with colleges closed for the time being, apprentices are getting stuck in on construction sites and learning is continuing, so I’d urge anyone who thinks that an apprenticeship in construction might be for them to get in touch and give it a go.”